The life of a private Detective- finding out where the case begins Chapter 1
| They called him Nichols because he was an affable man of humor. His real name, Nick, just sounded too gruff. Standing 5'9 in his bare feet, olive skin, and bright green eyes, he stood out because of his inviting warmth. .His eyes seemed to dance when his smile was engaged. A closely trimmed haircut and quaffed chin edging beard only added to his persona. With a voice deep and smooth, made for animated storytelling, he mesmerized any audience. Fit and trim with a style all his own, he usually donned bright patterned Hawaiian shirts and khakis, a midwestern oxymoron. Nichols would never grace the cover of Gentleman Quarterly, but People magazine would probably take notice of his masculine beauty.
Out to impress no one by his image, Nichols drove an old Buick for transportation, He chose this vehicle because it was classic, fun to drive, and got him where he was going. Symbols of wealth were of no meaning to this man. So on this fine, hot day, he slipped into the driver's seat with no thought given to soft, old, leather of the seat Intent only on arriving at his destination of 22 Mallard Drive, the drive was quick and peaceful. He had received a call from a lady that his services were requested.
As he pulled into the driveway of an impressive two-story Tudor style home, he was greeted by a massive beast. It was a black and brown canine with a head the size of the Buick's steering wheel. The animal had all the markings of a German Sheppard; however, his ears didn't quite stand up for the job. While the dog barked and panted incessantly, it was easy to see that the dog's teeth were very large as well. Leaving the safety of the car was the last thing on Nichols mind, with this mutt on the loose. Then remarkably, the dog sat silently outside his car door with eyes imploring while offering his paw. He decided to risk exiting his vehicle and was immediately rewarded with a slobber bath. The giant watchdog didn't exactly stand up to this task either.
Escorted by the friendly mongrel, Nichols made his way to the front door of the house. A loud gong sounded as he pushed the button, making the dog howl. To the casual observer, it looked just like a scene from an old-time comic book. The door opened to a slim, auburn-haired woman.
"Hello, are you Eloise Greene?
"Yes, may I help you?'
"I think you were expecting me. My name is Nichols Mcgee."
"Yes, of course. Please come in. And I am very sorry if Dimitri here was too friendly." She said as she waved at the mutt. Turning to the dog, she said," Bed, please" as if talking to a small child.
Dimitri ran out of the foyer, landing on a plush cushion in the adjoining room positioned by the fireplace. Immediately, Nichols was waved into the same room.
Attempting to make conversation while taking in the surroundings, Nichols commented, "I can't believe he went that easily."
"He has actually had extensive training. He just never learned to show that when he greets people. He gets a little too excited. Again, I am sorry."
The furnishings were high-end and stark, absent of any homey touches. Without dimension, the wood pieces lining the walls were blunt and blended into the colorless wallpaper. The decor theme was transgender, offering no clues to the identity of the owner. The most inviting element in the room was the dog bed. The lady in front of him did not fit into this room.
"Please call me Lou. I am really only "Eloise" to my mother.'
Nichols took the opportunity to fully evaluate the woman standing in front of him. He figured her to be 5'2 at best with the 3' taupe heels adding to her stature at the moment. Her auburn hair presented a striking picture with her bright green eyes. He always was a sucker for a redhead. The beauty mark sitting idly at the corner of lips added character. She was dressed in a flowing floral top with slender green Capri's completing the ensemble. Lou moved with an easy grace, making it clear that she was comfortable in her skin. Her eyes windowed intelligence and a passion for life. Nichols found her outer package delightful and couldn't help but wonder what mysteries the lady, herself, held.
Lou said," So, how much do you charge per hour?"
Momentarily shaken, he said, "What exactly are we talking about? You haven't even told me why I am here. I'm not exactly comfortable talking prices without more information."
"I need you to find a missing person. I will pay any fee that you say, but he has to be found. And found alive. Do you understand?'
"Who is missing? I mean who are we looking for?"
"My son. We have to find him. I am afraid they will hurt him. Please, I have no other options. He is so little When they let him call.... He just kept saying, Mommy, please come to get me. I don't know what to do." Lou's eyes shimmered and overflowed with tears. Nichols jumped up offering a Kleenex from the table nearby.
"Listen you're going to have to tell me the whole story before I can help. How old is your son?"
"Just 5, he is only 5. His name is Marcus. Oh, my God, I got him into this and I just want to hold him."
“Let’s start at the beginning. Who has him?”
“I don’t know. How would I know that? If I did Marcus would be here with me now, where he belongs.” Lou was almost hysterical in her answer.
Nichols took a long, deep breath hoping enough time would pass for Lou to regain some composure. The man knew he just wasn’t good at calming crying women. Tears from the opposite sex always made him uncomfortable, hence the reason he avoided long-term relationships. Nichols knew that time was not on their side. He needed details and he needed them now if he was to get to the boy. He tossed options around in his head, thinking of ways to get this woman that he barely knew to focus. It actually crossed his mind to slap her but he knew that probably wasn’t the right method for calming people down. That was something that you only saw in movies. He was glad that he had thought better of the plan. He waited. He waited for her to calm herself. Yes, that was a much better plan.
Lou must have sensed the quiet as she took in a long, deep breath herself. She blew out a long-winded whistle of despair. The dog, sensing her discomfort scooted to her side eyeing Nichols warily. The dog believed the man was the cause of his master’s discomfort and protection was Dimitri’s job. The hair on the neck of both the dog and the man stood upright. However, it was the man who perspired. It was a tense thirty seconds before Lou called the dog off with a wave of the hand.
She whispered.” I know that you need more. I am sorry. I am just scared. Give me a moment.”
Nichols’ posture slumped slightly in relief, as did the dog’s large frame soften.
“Point me to the kitchen. I will make us some coffee while you relax a moment and gather your thoughts” he said.
She glanced at him questioning, seeming unable to comprehend his statement. Lou rose from her seat floating blindly toward the doorway.
“This isn’t my house. I am not sure where everything is in there The kitchen is this way. We can go out there to talk.” she spoke in a distracted voice.
Nichols and the dog rose to follow immediately. It was a trio in search of another space to claim.
The fact that it wasn’t Lou’s place explained why she didn’t fit the surroundings. The detective in him made Nichols wonder about the actual homeowner. It was one of the many things he would have to ask the woman.
They made their way to what appeared to be the kitchen. Nichols perceived it as an extravagant ostentatious gallery of wasted space. It spoke volumes about the owner of the house, with appearances being the main goal of the furnishings. If the room had been designed for entertaining, it certainly had never been used as such. Every ounce of the room screamed perfection and newness. The room held no family ambiance. Colorless Coffee mugs hung in the galley offering no insight to the owner. No homemade kid pictures adorned the fridge. It was cryptic and cold making Nichols feel very much out of place. Even the dog wasn’t sure whether to sit or lay down. He couldn’t tell for sure but he thought Lou must be thinking the same thing as she glided herself into a booth in the corner of the room. The booth could seat twenty people easily. The room held three such booths giving perspective to the size of the room.
Nichols looked around for a simple coffee pot. Instead, he found a complicated looking machine encircling the counter below the mugs. He had no idea how it worked. He looked back at Lou with a shrug.
“I don’t have a clue, either. Don’t worry about the coffee.”
He joined her in the booth. The dog decided to lie with his head at his feet.
“Okay, let’s start again,” Nichols said as he pulled out a small digital tape recorder. “I am going to use this to record our conversation. There will be times when I will need to review details that you have given me. This is the easiest method for me. Are you okay with that?”
He turned on the recorder. He mumbled the date, time, and location into the microphone. Nichols cleared his throat then stated, “For the record, I am speaking with Eloise Greene, correct? Could you please state your name out loud?”
”I am Eloise Greene. I want to hire you to find my son, Marcus.’
“Please tell me how long your son has been gone or when he went missing.’
“This morning I received a call at work from a man telling me that they had taken him. They told me not to involve the police or I would never see him again.”
A frantic look overtook her face. Nichols turned off the tape to ask her if she was alright to continue. She responded with a nod of the head.
“I had taken him to school this morning. Everything was fine. When I got the call I went straight to the school, they said his Dad had picked him up for lunch. Marcus’ father died in a car accident over three years ago.”
“Well, I don’t have kids but don’t they ask for identification before they let someone take a kid out of school?” Nichols asked the woman.
“Well, that is the thing. They pulled out his file and showed me a list of people that I supposedly supplied of people that were allowed to pick him up from school. They showed me a picture and a signature of a man that I have never seen in that file. I almost threw up right there but I kept remembering that they told me they would be watching me. If they could place a fake file in the school then I wasn’t sure who I could trust there. So all I could do was pretend that his father and I must have gotten our signals crossed. ”
Nichols could see the moisture in her eyes building again. He paused while standing to stretch. He found the booth confining and the wood hard to endure.
“Good idea. Where did you go next?’
“I went to my house to see if maybe just maybe my baby was there. They were calling as soon as I walked into the house. That is when I got to talk to Marcus. They told me that they wouldn’t hurt him as long as I did what I was supposed to over the next two weeks. They didn’t tell me what they wanted. They are going to call me tomorrow at work to give me details. They told me not to get in a hurry and not to do anything stupid.’
Rather than throw questions at Lou, Nichols let her talk at her own pace. He spent his time trying to evaluate both her stability and truthfulness. He quickly rejected any thoughts of deceit on her part. She seemed genuine. It was the vibe from this room that was causing him to doubt his judgment. It also didn’t help that he kept finding himself distracted by her beauty. Nichols convinced himself, that at least he was sure the dog was real. You cannot fake animal loyalty. Dimitri was on alert for any signs of distress from the woman. He would be sure not to make any quick movements.
Lou continued, “I stayed at the house for awhile trying to figure out what to do. I called you but I didn’t want you to come to my house in case they were watching. I pretended to be walking the dog but we went to my neighbors to borrow her car. .This house belongs to a man that worked with my husband before he died. He travels a great deal. I watch the house occasionally for extra money. I don’t like being alone in this house so I always bring the dog with me. It is just too big for my taste but Dimitri seems comfortable here so he stays when I watch the house. He is a deterrent to robbers so the owner doesn’t mind.”
Nichols edged away from the table hoping again for a nonexistent cup of coffee. He had no idea that this case was going to be so involved. He knew that he was going to need the almighty power of caffeine to keep his head clear.
Lou jumped out of the booth peaking the dog’s interest. Dimitri stood at the ready for any command from the woman. Nichols was glad there were none.
“I have to get back home. They might call. If they are watching they will start to wonder why I am not back home with the dog yet.”
She handed Nichols a small photo of smiling. red-haired little boy. “This is Marcus.” She spoke with a catch in her voice. She inhaled swiftly allowing her voice to strengthen again. From her flowing blouse, she pulled out a rolled up set of papers.
“I have written down all of the information that I thought that you might need. His school, my address, my work, and details about my family are all there. I hope it has everything. Here is an extra key to this house. He is supposed to be out of town until the end of the month. I will try to be here tomorrow at the same time to fill you in on the phone call. If you do not hear from me then it will mean that they know about you. If that happens, you will have to forget that I ever contacted you. I can’t take the chance that they will hurt my son. I am going to do whatever it is they want me to do. I have no other choice. Do you understand? Please, promise me that if I tell you to stop that you will. I already feel like I have betrayed my son just by being here.”
Nichols could see the fear in her eyes. He could also see defiance and determination in her stance. The image was reminiscent of a mother bear protecting her cub. From experience, the detective knew better than to stand in her way.
“Alright, but watch yourself.” was the only reply he could muster
They retraced their steps towards the front of the house again She let him out the front door closing it behind them. Dimitri trailed willingly behind. They parted at the driveway with each entering their individual vehicle. Dimitri, of course, played co-pilot to Lou.
Nichols made the drive home with the music blaring in the Buick. He was trying to piece together the few details of the case that he had been fed. Loud music helped his brain function efficiently. Lying in the seat next to him was the picture that Lou had given him. Nichols couldn’t help but think the kid was pretty cute. Marcus looked like Lou with the red hair and green eyes. His complexion was darker than the fair skin that usually graced redheads. Nichols presumed this to be a feature that his father had passed on to the child. A toothy grin, minus one lower tooth, captured the innocence of any school-age child in America. Just above his lip was the same distinguishing beauty mark that Lou had sported. Nichols tried to push the thought out of his mind that this might be the identifying factor for this kid if things turned bad in this case. It was a thought that he didn’t want to entertain at the moment. Instead, his right foot smashed the gas pedal down increasing his speed. The Buick responded in a smooth manner carrying its passenger to his destination.
The place that Nichols called home was an old brick A-frame. It was nothing fancy but a neat and trim residence loaded with charm With landscaping that was green and plush, a gift that kept giving from a former client, the home was inviting. A rounded archway at the front entry accented the pointed slope of the roof. Red charcoal bricks provided the foundation. To Nichols, it was a home and it was an office. He had purchased the home five years ago. It had once been his childhood home and contained fond memories. Located in Southern Illinois, the house at 1212 Biscayne Boulevard had been his home for the first ten years of his life. When the home had become available for purchase Nichols had jumped at the chance. His parents had helped him restore the habitat to an impressive, stylish abode.
He checked the mail-box not really expecting anything but more out of habit. It was filled with mailers, ads, and a few paltry bills. With nothing earth shaking to contend with, he entered the house eager to get started on the case at hand. His first act would be to review the information that Lou had provided.
Once in the living room, Nichols was greeted by a crackling voice continuously repeating one phrase. “Well, Hello Mister Nick …awk,…Well, Hello Mister Nick” the African Grey parrot enthusiastically voiced. The birdcage hung in the window radiating the afternoon sunny brightness. A shimmering silver-grey parrot, Melba would not be hushed until Nichols gave her acknowledgment with the appropriate return greeting.
“Melba, my love I missed you.” Nichols recited.
The bird calmed and cackled, “Thank you.” This was their everyday ritual. The bird was two years old and the resulting purchase after a night of drinking on Nichols part. It was the one decision that he never regretted after such a night. Melba was important to the man. His feathered friend gave him someone to come home to.
Nichols made a dash for the kitchen raiding the icebox for him and grabbing seed for his friend. He returned to the living room with a sandwich, chips and a dark lager brew. Melba was as excited for her meal as Nichols was for his feast. It always felt good to fill an empty belly.
After eating, he retrieved the papers that Lou had given him. He was caught first by the scribbled, sporadic handwriting, that of a mother in distress. He could read between the lines to find the terror this woman was facing when she wrote the journal. The first items listed were concerning Marcus. The boy’s full name was Marcus Andrew Greene. He attended Laugh like a Child Preschool. He would soon be moving onto kindergarten. Details, such as his date of birth, social security number, and place of birth were all included. His mother also listed his likes and dislikes. There were food preferences, favorite toys, and favorite television shows. It was filled in with medical information concerning allergies, previous injury or illness, and identifying birthmarks, It was a laundry list of all the things a mother learns through time spent learning and loving their child. The final sentence of the narrative on Marcus announced that his biggest fear was losing his Mom. Nichols was struck by how difficult that must have been for the woman to write.
The private detective jotted down items on a legal pad that he believed might prove important later on. He wrote the information in his usual style using a numbered outline with the specifics alphabetized below. This was not only an organizational tool but helped Nichols commit the details to memory. He was a creature of habit when it came to this part of an investigation. It had served him well on previous cases.
The section on Lou is where Nichols hoped to find the reason for the kidnapping.